LEARNING disability patients were placed in isolation 70 times in just eight months at the West London NHS Trust, figures reveal.

Charity Mencap, which supports people with learning disabilities, says vulnerable patients locked in "modern day asylums" across England are being put at risk of abuse and neglect.

Across England, restrictive interventions were used on patients with learning disabilities or autism almost 23,500 times in the eight months to June, according to NHS Digital, which began to publish the figures in November.

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Restrictive interventions can include physical restraint, seclusion, drugging, and the use of straps or cuffs to subdue or control a patient.

At the West London NHS Trust, staff recorded using the seclusion method on 70 occasions, which is where a patient is placed in isolation away from other people.

The figures cover the period since the NHS first started producing them last year.

Dan Corner, head of policy and public affairs at learning disability charity Mencap, said the use of such techniques was likely to exacerbate challenging behaviour.

"Guidance set out by the Government clearly shows that restrictive interventions should only be used as a last resort," he said.

"However, these figures suggest that it is routine. This is unacceptable and deeply shocking.

"People with a learning disability or autism deserve to live in homes, not hospitals where they are often locked away hundreds of miles from their loved ones for long periods of time.

"These are completely inappropriate environments – they are noisy and chaotic places, where people are regularly subjected to overmedication, isolation and segregation.

"The Government must take urgent action to put a stop to this domestic human rights scandal."

In 2014, the then Department of Health promised to tackle the excessive use of restrictive interventions after the Winterbourne View care home scandal exposed staff using them to "inflict pain, humiliate or punish".

"These interventions have been used too much, for too long and we must change this," it said at the time.

But Ben Higgins, chief executive of the British Institute of Learning Disabilities, says poor quality training may be contributing to a continued reliance on the techniques.

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He said: "While the use of restraint may on rare occasions be necessary to keep people safe, it can also be highly traumatic and must be minimised.

"Too often, training puts too much emphasis on reactive approaches such as physical restraint, and places insufficient emphasis on human rights.

"A positive and proactive approach is vital to anticipate potential triggers for behaviour that challenges, and minimise the likelihood of, or avoid the need to use, restraint."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said it was determined to reduce the number of people with autism and learning disabilities in mental health hospitals, and that restraint should only ever be used as a last resort.

"The Care Quality Commission is undertaking an in-depth review into the use of seclusion, segregation and restraint and we are already taking action on their recommendations," she said.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: "Local NHS services are working closely with patients, families and local authority partners to get appropriate and high quality care for people with a learning disability as early as possible, investing in community care and avoiding the need for intensive inpatient treatment wherever possible."